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DC United vs. Chicago Fire | MLS Match Preview

D.C. UNITED vs CHICAGO FIRE
RFK MEMORIAL STADIUM, Washington, D.C.
Oct. 18, 2014 (WEEK 32, MLS Game #309)
7 p.m. ET (My50 Chi)

D.C. United will aim to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference when they play host to the Chicago Fire on Saturday evening at RFK Stadium. United can be assured of first place in the division and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with just a single point, after an historic 3-1 win at the Houston Dynamo last weekend. The Fire come into the match sitting at the foot of the Eastern Conference, now with a seven-game winless run following a 2-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City last weekend.

REFEREE: Armando Villarreal. AR1 (bench): Corey Parker; AR2 (opposite): Danny Thornberry; 4th: Mark Kadlecik
Villarreal's MLS Career: 45 games; FC/gm: 22.8; Y/gm: 2.8; R: 16; pens: 11

SUSPENDED: CHI -- Bakary Soumare (caution accumulation; through Oct. 19)
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: DC -- Davy Arnaud … CHI -- Matt Watson
FINED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: DC -- Lewis Neal, Chris Korb, Nick DeLeon, Fabian Espindola … CHI -- Mike Magee, Chris Ritter, Patrick Ianni, Lovel Palmer, Patrick Nyarko, Quincy Amarikwa
DISABLED LIST: none
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (48 meetings): United 17 wins, 68 goals … Fire 18 wins, 74 goals … Ties 13
AT RFK STADIUM (23 meetings): United 11 wins, 39 goals … Fire 8 wins, 34 goals … Ties 5

2014 (MLS):
3/29: DC 2, CHI 2 (Espindola 35; Kitchen 73 – Hurtado 27; Amarikwa 82)
9/20: CHI 3, DC 3 (Amarikwa 16; Larentowicz 32; Watson 78 – Silva 39, 54; Kitchen 68)
• The teams are meeting for the third time this season. A late goal from the Fire’s Matt Watson left the teams in a 3-3 tie Sept. 20 at Toyota Park; a late goal from Chicago’s Quincy Amarikwa sealed a 2-2 draw March 29 at RFK Stadium.
• The Fire have not lost to United in six meetings, since a 4-2 D.C. victory Aug. 22, 2012 at RFK Stadium. The Fire have won on three of their last five trips to the nation’s capital, with one draw, over the last five seasons. United last won at Toyota Park in 2009.
• Coaches record: Ben Olsen vs. CHI: P10 W1 L4 D5 … Frank Yallop vs. DC: P22 W10 L5 D7

LAST MEETING (MLS)
• The Fire opened the scoring in the 16th minute. A lively Harry Shipp picked out Quincy Amarikwa just inside the box, and he turned his defender before calmly slotting a left-footed shot past United goalkeeper Bill Hamid on the right.
• The lead was doubled just after the half-hour when Amarikwa was taken down by United midfielder Davy Arnaud and referee Fotis Bazakos pointed to the spot. Jeff Larentowicz drilled the ball to Hamid’s left for the 32nd-minute second.
• United won a penalty of their own seven minutes later after Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson committed an infraction while punching clear, and Luis Silva converted from the spot although his right-footed effort was almost kept out by Johnson.
• The visitors then drew level in dramatic circumstances in the 54th minute when Silva found the top left corner of Johnson's goal with a stunning free kick after a foul by Razvan Cocis on Perry Kitchen.
• United then took the lead through another set play in the 68th minute when Kitchen latched on to a Silva free kick which was helped on by Boswell and lobbed the ball goalwards. The ball was cleared off the line, but not until after the assistant referee had ruled it had gone over, even though Boswell drove the rebound into the back of the net.
• But the Fire had one final answer, striking for a sensational 78th-minute equalizer when Amarikwa teed up Matt Watson and his well-struck shot deflected off defender Steve Birnbaum to give Hamid no chance.
• CHICAGO FIRE (4-5-1): Sean Johnson - Lovel Palmer, Bakary Soumare, Jeff Larentowicz, Gonzalo Segares - Grant Ward (Florent Sinama-Pongolle 63), Razvan Cocis, Harry Shipp (Robert Earnshaw 71), Matt Watson, Alex (Patrick Nyarko 63) - Quincy Amarikwa.
• D.C. UNITED (4-4-1-1): Bill Hamid - Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Taylor Kemp - Samuel Inkoom (Chris Korb 46), Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, Nick DeLeon - Luis Silva (Collin Martin 83) - Michael Seaton (Chris Pontius 46).

D.C. UNITED
D.C. United extended their undefeated streak to four games with an historic win, defeating the Houston Dynamo 3-1 on Sunday afternoon at BBVA Compass Stadium. United are still in first place in the Eastern Conference with 55 points from 32 games.

LAST MATCH
• Following a weather delay of more than an hour midway through the first half, United took the lead in the 41st minute. Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric rushed off his line to stop a Chris Pontius shot, only to see the rebound land at the feet of Taylor Kemp, and he drove the ball back inside the far post from just inside the 18-yard box.
• United doubled their advantage in the 64th minute. Sean Franklin cleared a Dynamo free kick from the edge of his own area to Fabian Espindola, and he had nothing but open field ahead of him. He raced 60 yards to the other end before capping his run with a classy chip over an onrushing Deric.
• The Dynamo were given a lifeline in the 81st minute when Sean Franklin was whistled a penalty kick by referee Ismail Elfath after he appeared to drag Ricardo Clark down in the box. Giles Barnes calmly beat United goalkeeper Bill Hamid to the right to make it 2-1.
• But United finished off their first win ever in Houston in the 87th minute when Sean Franklin put in a cross from the right to David Estrada all alone at the back post, and he played the ball square to a completely unmarked Eddie Johnson who tapped home into a unguarded goal from close range.
• United head coach Ben Olsen made one change to the team that reached a scoreless draw with Sporting Kansas City at RFK Stadium. Perry Kitchen returned from suspension, coming in for Chris Korb.
• D.C. UNITED (4-4-2): Bill Hamid - Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Taylor Kemp - Nick DeLeon (David Estrada 78), Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius (Chris Korb 61) - Luis Silva (Eddie Johnson 30), Fabian Espindola.

TEAM NEWS
• D.C. United extended their undefeated streak to four matches with their first win ever in Houston, having gone 0-11-1 lifetime on their travels there.
• “It’s a great result,” said United head coach Ben Olsen. “It’s never fun. This isn’t a fun place to play. This is the type of team that can win here though – they know how to dig in and win the tough games. It’s another example of how this team has the right character.”
• Taylor Kemp scored his first professional goal to send United on their way, making a 10th consecutive start in the back four.
• “It’s so nice to have a guy like that get on the scoresheet,” said Olsen, “to give him a little press, a little ego boost. He’s done fantastic for us and I’m glad his name is going to be mentioned [a bit more.]"
• Fabian Espíndola scored his 10th goal of the season, his first since Aug. 23. It matches his single-season career-high for goals in a season, set in 2011 with Real Salt Lake; Espíndola has scored nine goals each of the last two seasons.
• “It was kind of back and forth for a while and took a good goal in the first one and Fabi [Espindola] just showed why he’s a great goalscorer in this league on the second one. We knew they were going to throw up crazy numbers forward, upset not to get the shutout but I think anyone takes a win in Houston; anyone in this league would take that no matter how it’s done,” said defender Bobby Boswell. “Credit to the guys, we’re a group that’s motivated.”
• Chris Pontius made his second start of the season, in the last two matches, playing 61 minutes in a wide midfield role.
• There was an injury blow for United when Luis Silva was forced off after just a half-hour after suffering a hamstring injury, which is expected to cost Silva 4-6 weeks of action.
• “It’s tough,” Olsen said. “But we’re not in mourning. It’s an injury, and we have players that will come in and hopefully do the job in his absence. He’s a guy that has been fantastic for us over the last couple months and it’s a big blow – but again, we’ve had these circumstances throughout the year and we seem to have responded in the right way. Guys have filled in pretty admirably.”
• Eddie Johnson scored his sixth goal of the season, his first since Aug. 31. Five of Johnson’s league goals this season have come since July 11.
• “It’s never fun when you’re not starting,” said Olsen. “To stay in it mentally and for him to understand that his time was going to come, and to now be the man up top is a credit to him.” Added defender Sean Franklin: “I see Eddie up top with Fabi – that’s as dangerous for us as Silva and Fabi. I’m looking forward to seeing them, and like I said, I wish Luis a speedy recovery.”

CHICAGO FIRE
The Chicago Fire had their winless run stretched to seven matches, falling 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City on Friday evening at Sporting Park. The Fire are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 33 points from 32 games.

LAST MATCH
• Sporting had a glorious chance to opening the scoring early. Fire fullback Lovel Palmer brought down SKC's Benny Feilhaber in the area in the 12th minute, and referee Kevin Stott awarded the penalty kick. But Dom Dwyer put his spot kick over the bar.
• The opening goal finally came 10 minutes from the end. Graham Zusi took a pass from defender Kevin Ellis outside the Fire box, dribbled through defenders into the top right of the Fire's penalty area, and unleashed a left-footed shot that sailed over Johnson's outstretched right hand and into the upper left corner of the net.
• Sporting salted away the result in the second minute of stoppage time, when Zusi put in a pinpoint cross from the right corner and Dwyer leaped to easily head home.
• Fire head coach Frank Yallop made one change to the team that reached a scoreless result with the Montréal Impact at Toyota Park. Harry Shipp came into the team in place of Gonzalo Segares.
• CHICAGO FIRE (4-4-2): Sean Johnson - Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz, Bakary Soumare, Alex (Matthew Fondy 88) - Patrick Nyarko (Sanna Nyassi 69), Logan Pause, Matt Watson, Harry Shipp (Grant Ward 83) - Florent Sinama-Pongolle, Quincy Amarikwa.

TEAM NEWS
• The Fire saw their winless streak extended to seven games with the loss at Sporting KC, their first loss after a pair of draws.
• “I thought we played well, enough to get something out of the match, as we have in a lot of games this year, we’re in every game,” Fire head coach Frank Yallop said. “We’ve proved it again tonight, we were right there, toe to toe and we didn’t quite get it done.”
• The Fire will become the first team in MLS history to finish the season with more points from draws than victories if they fail to win one of their final two games, against D.C. United on the road and at home vs. Houston.
• “I don’t want to make excuses – I never do – but there weren’t a lot of options to change things when I came here at the beginning of the season,” Yallop said. “But now I’ve seen the team for a year and I think we’ve coached them to their potential. It’s not quite good enough to win games, so we just need to add some quality in the right areas and I think we’ll be decent. I’m excited about the prospects of that.”
• The Fire were also shut out at the attacking end for a second consecutive match and the third time in the last four games, the first time this season they’ve failed to score in back-to-back games.
• “The talks in the locker room were to continue doing what we’re doing, focusing on springing guys on the counterattack and hopefully joining in on the second phase,” Quincy Amarikwa said. “Unfortunately, Zusi came away with one of the best strikes I’ve seen in the league all year, and we were on the tail end of that and we couldn’t come away with three points. We really pushed for it there in the end, we went three at the back to try and get it. Fondy had a real good opportunity but Gruenebaum came up with another big save.”
• Patrick Nyarko made his second consecutive start, his first starts since May 10 after nearly a four-month layoff to injury.
• Florent Sinama-Pongolle again partnered Quincy Amarikwa in attack, his second consecutive start and his third since coming to the club. He’s appeared in five consecutive games.
• “For the last couple games of the season, it’s really important for us to stay focused on the coach’s message to go out there and end on a good note. We owe it to ourselves and to our fans,” said goalkeeper Sean Johnson. “We have had a long season and we always have to have a positive outlook. We have everything to play for, especially the crest on our chest.”

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Current Form

D.C. United
D
L
D
W
D
W
Chicago
D
D
L
D
D
L

Season Stats

D.C. UnitedChicago Fire FC
32Games Played32
16Wins5
9Losses9
7Draws18
49Goals38
35Goals Conceded48
271Shots301
135Shots on Target140
412Fouls committed425
346Fouls suffered402
81Offside60
124Corners166

Goals Scored

01234+TotalAvg
DC98753491.5
CHI716711381.2
01234+Avg
DC444221.6
CHI294101.2
01234+Avg
DC543311.4
CHI573011.1

Goals Conceded

01234+TotalAvg
DC1211441351.1
CHI613742481.5
01234+Avg
DC942100.7
CHI481301.2
01234+Avg
DC372311.5
CHI256121.8
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